The situation has returned to calm in a monastery in northern Kosovo, where about 30 armed men were holed up for several hours following the killing of a policeman, according to what Interior Minister Jalal Cvecla said on Sunday.
The Minister of the Interior said, in a press conference, “We regained control of this area after several battles.” Since Sunday afternoon, police forces surrounded the aforementioned militants who barricaded themselves inside the monastery.
The announcement comes on the heels of a chaotic day that began early Sunday when a policeman was killed and another wounded in an ambush on a police patrol near the village of Baniska.
The militants fled to a nearby monastery where they barricaded themselves and exchanged gunfire with Kosovo police for hours, with at least three attackers killed in the fighting.
The Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, announced that 30 militants were surrounded by the authorities, demanding that they surrender.
Svečla confirmed that the police made a number of arrests during the operation and confiscated large quantities of weapons and equipment. But it is still unclear whether all the militants were arrested during the operation.
This is one of the most dangerous cases of escalation in Kosovo in years, after months of escalating tensions and the cessation of talks between the government in Pristina and Serbia.
A statement issued by the diocese said that inside the monastery “there was a group of pilgrims who came from Novi Sad and a priest.” To ensure their safety, they took shelter inside the monastery after masked men “stormed the Banjska Monastery with an armored vehicle and broke the gate.”
In a statement in the afternoon, police announced that at least three attackers were killed and one of them was arrested.
Four suspected civilians carrying radio equipment and weapons were arrested.
The European Union, through a post by its foreign affairs official, Josep Borrell, on the X website (formerly Twitter), strongly condemned “the heinous attack carried out by an armed gang against members of the Baniska/Baniske police in northern Kosovo… those responsible for it must face justice.”
Kosovo police confirmed that the Jarenje and Brnijak border crossings between Serbia and Kosovo were closed after the incident.
For its part, the NATO force deployed in Kosovo (KFOR) said in a statement that it “is present and ready to intervene if requested to do so,” stressing that the Kosovo police are responsible for managing the situation.
Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic, announced that he would speak, on Sunday evening, “to refute all the lies and conspiracy theories of Albin Kurti, who is creating nothing but chaos and hell” in Kosovo.
Since the war that ended in 1999 with NATO bombing, relations between Pristina and Belgrade have moved from one crisis to another.
Serbia refuses to recognize the independence declared in 2008 by its former province, which has a population of 1.8 million people, the vast majority of whom are of Albanian origins, and which includes a Serb group of 120,000 people who reside mainly in northern Kosovo.
Northern Kosovo, where the Serb minority is concentrated, witnesses frequent unrest. The situation suddenly worsened in May when the Kosovo authorities decided to appoint Albanian mayors in four regions whose residents were mostly Serbs.
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